London exhibition cancelled over artist’s anti-Israel comments

Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London has been cancelled after he posted comments on social media referencing the Israel-Hamas war.

The show in the Lisson Gallery in London had been expected to open on November 15. However, it was called off by the gallery after discovering the artist’s comments on social media about the Israel-Hamas war, reports Euronews.

Ai Weiwei is a contemporary Chinese dissident artist well known for his political commentary and activism on human rights issues. He has been vocal in his support for the Palestinians. In a since-deleted X post, he reportedly wrote: “The sense of guilt around the persecution of the Jewish people has been, at times, transferred to offset the Arab world. Financially, culturally, and in terms of media influence, the Jewish community has had a significant presence in the United States.”

The tweet continued: “The annual $3bn aid package to Israel has, for decades, been touted as one of the most valuable investments the United States has ever made. This partnership is often described as one of shared destiny.”

In the wake of the post, a Lisson representative said the exhibition would not go on as planned. “After extensive conversations with Ai Weiwei, following a comment he posted online, we together agreed that now is not the right time to present his new body of work,” a gallery statement reads.

“There is no place for debate that can be characterised as antisemitic or Islamophobic at a time when all efforts should be on ending the tragic suffering in Israeli and Palestinian territories, as well as in communities internationally. Ai Weiwei is well known for his support of freedom of expression and for championing the oppressed, and we deeply respect and value our longstanding relationship with him.”

In his own statement, Ai said, “The cancellation of an exhibition is not important at all because thousands and tens of thousands of exhibitions are still going on. Whether I exist or not is also not important because there will always be someone who wants to look for light and the joy that light brings to life, as people do not like darkness.”

The artist has previously addressed the global refugee crisis and the conflict in the Middle East in his 2017 documentary Human Flow.

A representative for the artist said three further exhibitions had also been called off in New York, Paris, and Berlin.


Photo credit: Ai Weiwei Studio